The Melbourne Bearkatz football team is entering its fifth season of football, but has yet to play a full varsity schedule. The last four seasons, Melbourne played what is called a "B" schedule, because it has been playing primarily junior varsity teams.
Melbourne athletic director Tim Massey said he is excited about having a football team.
"It brings another group of kids that, if they didn't have football, aren't gonna be involved [in sports]. Basketball only has five kids on the floor. But with football, you have to have 11 on the field at all times," Massey said. "I think it will get kids, parents, and the community involved. I'm looking forward to it."
Gore added that the community is hungry for a winning football team so, if the team can have a little success, the community will give them a lot of support.
Head coach Clinton Gore said last season was a good final tune up for the team.
"Our fourth year was a random schedule. I think we won three games. We had a bunch of kids hurt, and we were real young. But we've had a really good off season, and have been playing a lot of seven on seven (a form of touch football to practice passing routes and defenses). If we can keep [the team] from getting hurt, then we'll be fine," Gore said.
Seven of those 7-on-7 games were played at a tournament at Hoxie on July 19, a tournament which the Katz won with six wins, and a tie. The team beat Hoxie twice, Jonesburo's "B" team, and Cave City twice.
Gore said 7-on-7 games are a helpful way for new teams to learn some of the fundamentals of the game.
"It makes kids learn how to catch. It makes kids learn to line up and play pass defense. We only had seven players with us, so they had to play offense and defense, but they hung in there," Gore said.
Over the summer, Melbourne also played Salem several times in a 7-on-7 format, but Gore said those games were more scrimmages than actual games.
The team will be led on the field this year by seniors Kirby Smith and Matt Cox. They are among a group of other seniors, who have played together since the eighth grade. Gore said Melbourne may have an unexpected advantage this year.
"Having played together the whole time the kids have been playing football, they may start to understand what themselves, as well as the other kids on the team, can and can't do," Gore said. "I think we've reached that point, I think the kids are familiar enough with each other to know what their team mates can do.
Despite this being the Katz first year under Friday night lights each week, the team has high hopes and expectations. When asked what the team hopes to accomplish this season, Gore simply said, "We want to win our conference."
Melbourne's first season of varsity football kicks off on August 31, against Palestine-Wheatley high school.